Meanwhile the cardinal was anxiously looking for news from England; but no news arrived, except what was annoying and threatening.

One day when the cardinal, oppressed by mortal weariness of mind, hopeless of the negotiations with the city, without news from England, had gone out with no other aim than to ride, accompanied only by Cahusac and La Houdinière, skirting the beach and mingling the immensity of his dreams with the immensity of the ocean, he came ambling along to a hill, from the top of which he perceived, behind a hedge, reclining on the sand, in the sun so rare at this period of the year, seven men surrounded by empty bottles. Four of these men were our musketeers, preparing to listen to a letter one of them had just received. This letter was so important that it caused them to abandon their cards and their dice on a drumhead.

The other three were occupied in uncorking an enormous demijohn of Collioure wine; they were the gentlemen’s lackeys.

The cardinal was, as we have said, in very low spirits; and when he was in that state of mind, nothing increased his depression so much as gaiety in others. Besides, he had another strange fancy, which was always to believe that the causes of his sadness created the gaiety of others. Making a sign to La Houdinière and Cahusac to stop, he alighted from his horse, and went toward these suspected merry- makers, hoping, by means of the sand which deadened the sound of his steps, and of the hedge which concealed his approach, to catch some words of a conversation which seemed so interesting. Ten paces from the hedge he recognized the Gascon prattle, and as he had already perceived that these men were musketeers, he had no doubt that the three others were those called “the inseparables”—that is to say, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis.

As may well be supposed, his desire to hear the conversation was increased by his discovery. His eyes took on a strange expression, and with the step of a cat he advanced toward the hedge. But he had not been able as yet to make out anything more than vague syllables without any positive sense, when a short, sonorous cry made him start, and attracted the attention of the musketeers.

“Officer!” cried Grimaud.

“I believe you are speaking, you rascal!” said Athos, rising on his elbow, and fascinating Grimaud with his flashing eyes.

Grimaud therefore said not a word more, but contented himself with pointing his index finger at the hedge, signifying by this gesture the presence of the cardinal and his escort.

With a single bound the musketeers were on their feet, and saluted respectfully.

The cardinal seemed furious.

“It seems that the musketeers set sentinels for themselves,” said he. “Are the English expected by land, or do the musketeers consider themselves officers of rank?”

“Monseigneur,” replied Athos, for amidst the general alarm he alone had preserved that calmness and sang froid which never forsook him —“monseigneur, the musketeers, when they are not on duty, or when their duty is over, drink and play at dice, and they are officers of very high rank to their lackeys.”

“Lackeys!” grumbled the cardinal. “Lackeys who are ordered to warn their masters when any one passes are not lackeys; they are sentinels.”

“Your Eminence may perceive that if we had not taken this precaution, we should have been in danger of letting you pass without presenting you our respects, or offering you our thanks for the favour you

  By PanEris using Melati.

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